In response to the posts relating to, “Advice for the First Year Principal,” a reader writes:
“I enjoyed, “Advice for the First Year Principal,” as well as the posts that have stemmed from it. My question is this, “What about the 2nd year?”
The first year, I know that lots of changes shouldn’t be made, but we (principal and AP) have started making some changes in this 2nd year that are really ruffling feathers. We’re getting the “Why are we making so many changes and what is our reasoning behind it” type questions.”
First, who said changes shouldn’t be made in the first year? That’s one of the conventional wisdom rules that often causes more harm than good. The decison to change is driven by the situation you find yourself in.
Are you in a turn around situation? If so, you need to change and change fast.
Are you in a refocusing situation? Then you better communicate your tail off and start moving at a deliberate pace.
Are you in a sustaining situation? Then tread lightly and study the system you have inherited with all the intensity you can muster.
The problem is that most new principals misread the situation they have inherited and then follow the advice of those who’s success and experience are from an entirely different situation. This is not a formula for success. Instead, this is where a little external coaching goes a long way.
Second, I really don’t have rules for second year principals. However, I do have some common observations.
1. Second year principals often wonder if most of their staff had lobotomies over the summer. The didn’t. It’s just that for the first time you are able to slow down a little bit and watch and listen a little more critically. Don’t get mad or frustrated, start coaching.
2. Second year principals are often flabbergasted by all the problems that just suddenly show up. Again, this isn’t actually the case. You finally are able to look up and observe what is really going on around you.
3. Second year principals begin to feel overworked (as opposed to overwhelmed). The work was always there, but now you know the basics of the job well enough to start multi-tasking.
4. Second year principals often spend a lot of time fixing issues that they created in their first year. Joke too much, vent too much, have loose lips, avoid difficult situations? The learning curve is steep and the subsequent “fix it” curve can be humbling.
Finally, “Why are we changing” and “Why so many changes” are legitimate questions. If you don’t have an answer for either of those, don’t change. If the answers to those questions doesn’t begin with “This is what is best for our students,” then don’t change. Finally, if your reason for changing is because the State, the Board or your boss told you to do so, then you best internalize that directive and make it your own. That’s what leader’s do, they accept responsibility. The manager simply passes the buck.
We are in the learning business. We need to have our teams question, probe, reason and have passion if we are going to add to the knowledge base of our profession. Cultivate that quality, don’t begrudge it. But also, don’t let it become counter productive.
Think. Work. Achieve.